Reflections on Solo Travel
I love traveling solo. More than anything else, I appreciate the freedom it gives me; the freedom to move or not move; the freedom to go or to stay. I started traveling alone when I was 11, and everything I had experienced then only reinforced my belief in the value of solo travel.
When I travel by myself, I learn not only to trust people (and I have never been let down by them!), I learn to trust myself too, to listen to my intuition and believe that I can handle whatever is thrown my way.
It is unfortunate that not all travelers (male and female alike) enjoy solo travel as much as I do. One commenter said, in the report about an American woman killed in Turkey, “Don’t go off anywhere by yourself, no matter how friendly someone seems. My sister went to Mexico by herself and was raped by a tour guide at the Monarch butterfly reserve. DON’T GO ANYWHERE ALONE!”
It’s quite a hysterical reaction to solo travel, due of course, to the traumatic experience by a family member. But his (her?) comment is not even the worst of it. In that particular story, people who are against solo travel in general, or women traveling solo, in particular, had a field day virtually saying “I told you so.”
According to another commenter, “A single woman traveling alone is risky. In a foreign country, it is downright foolish. Sadly, an all too-common story, with an all too-predictable ending. Will people ever learn?”
Really? Is it really a common story? Do women really ask for it when they travel alone and get victimized? This speaks quite loudly of victim blaming; it’s society saying again that women “deserve” to be raped and killed because they wore sexy clothes, went out at night, or yeah, met up with a stranger, like Sarai Sierra intended to do.
What would these people say if I told them that since I began traveling abroad in 2008, I had been staying in strangers’ houses, relying on people I only met online? (Yep, it’s Couchsurfing!)
Still, the comment is a bit mild, compared to others. One commenter said “I would NEVER let my wife do something like this!” while another one said, “I can’t believe that her husband let her go without somebody with her.“
Truly, despite this being the enlightened age, a lot of people (in a lot of cultures) still think that women should still seek permission from their husband if they want to pursue something they would like to do.
The most common question, however, was, “Why in the world would a woman travel out of the country to an unfamiliar country ALONE?” Well, why not?
Certainly, there are a lot of reasons to travel alone. For me, again, it’s about the total and complete freedom I get when I’m by myself. Other travelers cite the confidence boost they get, the chance to meet more people, and the opportunity to relax without need for company.
In the recent #WeGoSolo Twitter chat held just a few hours ago hosted by Mariellen Ward of Breathe Dream Go, a number of women who travel solo gave their particular reasons for wandering on their own. Here are just some of them:
Knowing you can rely only on yourself to get anything done—anywhere. Solitude is the highest form of freedom. –@catcon3
It’s a confidence boost! You will see that you can follow your dreams, the only one you need is you! YOU decide what you want to do and see. You learn more about yourself and meet more people. –@JennyRTW
It builds confidence. [You will] Know what you’re made of. [You] learn more about yourself. –@WAVEJourney
Traveling solo means I can create my own adventures and discover on my terms! –@OutpostMagazine
The busier I am, the more I need to “get away from it all” and have time to myself. Solo travel is great for that. –@SoloFriendly
[It is a] Great journey of self discovery, to really learn who you are and what you are capable of—things you can take home. –@DestnUnknown
Yes, we go solo, and we lived to tell the tale. We’re not foolhardy. We do take precautions. When I travel alone, for example, I am ALWAYS looking out for my safety. There’s no issue in that. The issue is the thought of having someone, another person, dictate my actions.
This Valentine’s Day, when all those who are in a committed relationship are out celebrating their couplehood, I am reminded of how I celebrated the occasion with K last year in Bruges, Belgium. The thought of settling occurred to me, missing the company of someone I had loved. Only for a second, though. I have known for some time that I can never really settle.
No. If I get married someday, it will be to someone who respects me and understands my occasional need to be alone.
After all, I travel solo not because I want to prove something. I travel alone because I want to, I need to, and because I can.
In the meantime, check out some of the articles about solo female travel in the #WeGoSolo movement:
- Breathe Dream Go—Ode to the Lady Traveller
- Grrrltraveler—Is Solo Travel Still Safe for Women? …6 Safety Tips that make it so.
- Journeywoman—She Travels Solo
- Legal Nomads—Revisiting the solo female travel experience
- Solo Friendly—What’s the Big Deal about Solo Female Travel?
- Solo Traveler Blog—Solo Travel Safety
- Solo Traveler Blog—Am I the Pollyanna of Solo Travel?
- Wanderlust and Lipstick—The Sisterhood of Traveling Wanderlusters–We Go Solo
- Travel Yourself—YES it is safe to travel solo as a female
- Twenty-Something Travel—Solo Female Travel is NOT the Problem
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Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!